FDAM upset over change in film fest rules

PETALING JAYA: The controversy over the 28th Malaysia Film Festival (FFM) refuses to go away with the Film Directors Association of Malaysia (FDAM) now saying it will not take part if movies with less than 70% Bahasa Malaysia content are allowed to compete on equal terms with Malay movies.

FDAM secretary Datuk Abdul Rahim Awang claimed the move to allow all movies to contest for the Best Film award was akin to insulting the Federal Constitution and showing disrespect to the Rukunegara.

“With that, FDAM is no longer with the 28th FFM from the moment it went against the Federal Constitution by recognising works that are not in the national language for a national-level award,” he said.

The 28th FFM is scheduled for Sept 3.

Acclaimed film director Datuk Yusof Haslam, who was among those who introduced the language segregation, said the decision to allow movies to compete on equal terms was a bitter pill to swallow but agreed to comply.

“I have been questioned for apparently not defending the national language rights, but it is the Government’s decision and we have to abide,” he said.

The controversy began when the organisers announced two new categories – Best Director (non-Bahasa) and Best Screenplay (non-Bahasa) – to go with the Best Film (non-Bahasa) award. Recent popular movies like OlaBola and Jagat were classified as non-Bahasa movies.

The segregation caused an outcry among actors and cinematographers. Even corporate figures like CIMB Group chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak and AirAsia Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes waded in.

Multimedia and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak then announced on Wednesday that all Malaysian films, regardless of language, would be eligible for the top award.

He also announced a new category, Best Film in the National Language, for Malay movies.

The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) clarified yesterday that with the minister’s announcement, three categories – Best Film (non-Bahasa), Best Director (non-Bahasa) and Best Screenplay (non-Bahasa) – are now abolished.

Nominees for those categories will compete in the Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay categories instead.

Screenwriters Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor (Penulis) president Alfie Palermo praised Dr Salleh for his concern in putting a stop to the language segregation in FFM.

He also thanked Finas and the Malaysian Film Producers Association (PFM) for discussing the issue with people in the industry.

Persatuan Seniman Malaysia president Zed Zaidi, meanwhile, also supported the minister’s decision.

“It is our joint responsibility not to politicise the film industry and preserve our dignity and identity as Malaysians,” Zed told Bernama.